A member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society recently asked the group how experienced writers decide where to submit their stories. I suggested the following:
You can approach this in one of two ways:
1) Write the story and then try to find a market.
2) Study a market and then try to write a story for it.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. If you write the story first, you may write a great story but find that it does not fit any publication's current needs. If you study a publication first, you may write a story so specific to that publication's requirements that it has little hope of selling anywhere else.
If you've read any of the mysteries in Woman's World, you'll know what I mean. WW has unique story needs. The likelihood of sitting down and writing a story for Woman's World without ever studying the magazine is highly unlikely. On the other hand, any story you write to WW's requirements is highly unlikely to sell anywhere else (at least, not without significant revision).
I take a combined approach. I study markets so that I have markets in mind while I write. While the basic story might not change, details within the story might be different depending on the market(s) I think I want to submit to. Do I put the violence on-stage or off-stage? Is there a sexual element and is it hinted at or blatant? Do I use obscenities or do I clean up the language? Do I stretch out scenes to add to the word count or do I tighten them to cut the word count?
Does this approach work? I’ve sold more than 800 short stories, and I’ve had one or more short stories published every month for the past 74 consecutive months. So, yeah, it works pretty good.